FlockFlock has just yesterday launched their first public beta of their browser, available for Windows, Mac and Linux, along with a new website. I’ve been keeping up with the latest Flock builds ever since it’s initial alpha release (See Flying with the Flock) and have been impressed with every time. First off, for those of you new to Flock, Flock is a browser built off of Mozilla technologies, specifically the Firefox Web Browser, that has extra functionality attached to it. With Flock, you can manage photos, bookmarks (social bookmarking), write blog posts, read RSS Feeds, and more. One last note: Loving the new Flock website designed by Bryan Veloso. Nice work!

Flock is an excellent browser that I have grown to love. Although, I know of many people that say otherwise because they feel it could easily be done in Firefox by installing some extension. Yes, this may very well be true, but why would you go through all that hassle when Flock is built with a great interface that has these features at default? It’s built for these features for Flock, by Flock, and I’m sure functionality and performance would be much better then installing extensions. Well, I’m a happy user and maybe you will too when you see the features.

I am going to give a run-down of new features and features with large updates including photo sharing, blogging, and Flock’s feed reader, and bookmarking. I feel these are the features that makes Flock so great and each deserves a detailed explanations (full screenshots provided). Let’s take a look.

Photo Sharing

Flock has excellent photo sharing integration. I’ve spoken to many Flock users and read user reviews about the photo sharing and many say they use Flock simply because of the photo sharing. I must say, it is of the main reasons why I use Flock too. What makes it so great is that Flock has direct integration to photo sharing services that many of us already use today, such as Flickr and Photobucket (with more coming). It takes a few simple steps to connect the browser to your Flickr account (one time setup) and will then allow you to easily view your photos, upload and modify photos, and even look at of photos from supported photo sharing services. Flock has this great feature called the Photos Topbar. When you turn on the Photos Topbar (see first screenshot above), a photostream will appear, much like a film-strip, that allows you to scroll through all of your photos. You can also search for photos on the web, find friends using a specific photo sharing service, star (bookmark) your favorite photostreams to easily keep track of them, and more.

Flock also includes a photo uploader with simple drag and drop publishing and image modification options. The uploader allows you to drag photos from your desktop directly into Flock’s upload and will then allow you to set titles, descriptions, and even tags to each photo. At the click of the “Upload” button, Flock will then connect to your photo sharing account, inform you about your account’s space, and upload to the service. I uploaded around 20 photo’s in around 2 minutes with each photo containing titles, descriptions, and tags. Further more, if I ever needed to resize, crop, or rotate a photo, I may do this as well with it’s built in image modification tool.

One feature that I found really neat with this was that if you were posting a thread at a forum or making a comment somewhere on the web, you can easily upload any photo to it in seconds. Simply find a photo on your desktop or from your Flickr photostream and drop it into the text area. If the photo is not available online, Flock will bring up the image uploader and allow you to instantly upload and insert the HTML into the text area. I found this pretty neat and definitely easy.

Blogging

Flock also includes a built in blogging platform so any user can easily pickup on blogging and manage their blogs all within the browser. Flock also includes a neat tool called, Web Snippets, that allows users to easily save images, snippets of text, links, and more in one container while they browse the web. Many users will use this so they can save quotes from a website and include it in a blog post, which Flock allows you to do using simple drag and drop. I however don’t often use others photos or refer to direct quotes on sites, but I found it to be a really helpful tool for when researching a specific topic or product. I can create my own snippets of text, save any photos I may want to refer to later, and save resources all in one area. This way, while I write a post, rather then opening all these tabs and looking at individual pages while I write a post, I can just open Web Snippets and view snippets that I have saved for reference.

The blog editor allows you to connect directly to your blog and create and manage posts. It provides a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor allowing you to easily format text, add links, lists, and more. If you’re not into the whole formatting thing, you can easily switch to the HTML Markup tab. Flock also allows you to save blog posts as drafts to your hard-drive and open them at a later time for publishing. You may also open up the Web Snippets tool while you blog so you can easily drag and drop items in your post or refer to items while you write. And for those of you wondering about pings/notifications to services, like Pingomatic, Flock supports them as well.

Feed Reader

I spend many hours of my day reading through RSS feeds and it was nice to see that Flock has stepped it up with their feed reader since their initial alpha release. It now is a fully functional feed reader allowing you to easily import feeds from any website, create collections of feeds for organization, and read them in a clean interface. It works much like your basic feed reader listing feeds/collections along the left and posts on the right. You can choose to view feeds in a single or double column format and the reader also provides a one page overview off all collections called the “Front Page.” The feader reader works fairly well, although when I imported all of my 250 feeds from Bloglines, it started to lag the browser a bit and have a hard time at displaying stories in the feed reader. I’m sure with less, it would perform much better, but I was hoping it wouldn’t of had any problems.

Flock will notify you of new posts as they come in by displaying a gold circle on the news reader icon from the toolbar. If you are wondering how often Flock will check for new posts, according to the FAQ section, Flock will check feeds for updates every hour or you can individually refresh feeds.

Flock also provides simple feed importing to the feed reader. First, on any website you can click on the feed icon in the address bar to view and import the feed. This isn’t anything all that new and popular browsers do this already too. But what really got me was when I went to import my Bloglines OPML. I clicked on Bloglines export option which opens up an OPML formatted document with all my subscribed feeds. Flock recognized it was an OPML file and allowed me to view all the feeds and with one click, subscribe to all of them. In one click, without me having to save the OPML file to my hard-drive, it imported all 250 feeds in less then a second. It honestly put a smile to my face – no joke. It’s rare that you find such simple import options such as that and I feel they did a nice job with it.

Bookmarking

Flock tightly integrates social bookmarking into its browser with Del.icio.us and Shadows. It allows you to easily connect to either of these services so you can view your bookmarks within the browser and save bookmarks as you browse the web at the click of a button. On the left of the address bar is a star. Single-clicking this star with perform a quick save, only saving the link to your bookmarks on your hard-drive. However, double-clicking the star will allow you to save a bookmark to a collection, tag, and add a description to the bookmark, as well as automatically publish it to your social bookmarking account (Del.icio.us or Shadows). It’s simple and quick. My only complaint with the bookmarking functionality is that the bookmark manager feels a bit cluttered to me. With hundreds of bookmarks, opening the manager presents you with a full list of bookmarks close together making it a little difficult to pick one. Although, the search located at the bottom does help with it’s filtering as you type. Just my opinion though and many may not even use the bookmark manager if they are happy with sticking to the social bookmarking service. Either way, Flock offers nice and simple bookmarking integration and I like being able to save bookmarks with a click of the mouse.


15 Comments on “What’s New With Flock?”

  1. ENGRENAGEM - Media e Tecnologia: blog sobre jornalismo, citizen journalism, blogosfera e novas tecnologias says:

    [...] Alguns dos grandes analistas, contudo, teceram rasgados elogios ao programa (veja-se o Tech Crunch e o Solution Watch). Assim que tiver tempo, vou fazer tamb?m o meu “test-drive”. 15 Junho 2006 | [...]

  2. Rohit says:

    Sounds promising. A few questions: a) Are you notified when there are new feeds to view? b) Is there a Gmail notifier extension available like the one for Fx?

    Good review.

  3. Brian Benzinger says:

    Rohit – Thanks for your questions. I’ll answer them in the order you asked:

    a.) Yes, Flock does notify you of new feeds. I had forgotten to mention that and the review and will make an update to include that. But, to show you visually. Take a look at the last screenshot (for the feed reader) and the first screenshot (for the photo sharing). You will see an icon that looks like a news paper. One has a gold/orange circle on it and the other doesn’t. Gold circle means there are new stories and when clicking it, you can set Flock to mark stories as read or you can do this yourself.

    b.) Yes, there is a Gmail notifier extension for Flock. You may grab it here: Gmail Notifier for Flock.

    There are also many more available extensions for Flock too that are worth looking at.

    Thanks!

  4. MartinKloos.nl » » Browsen 2.0 met Flock… says:

    [...] Ik zal er niet teveel over uitwijden verder. In deze post: What’s New With Flock kan je een uitgebreide review nalezen. Een tour van de belangrijkste functionaliteiten vind je op de site van Flock zelf. Natuurlijk ondersteunt Flock ook extensies. Daarnaast zijn er tools om bestaande firefox extensies te converteren naar Flock. [...]

  5. David Mead says:

    I’ve been using Flock for a little while and though not an ardent blogger I am continually pleased with the advances they are making. My only real gripe is everytime I upgrade a version it seems to forget all the information from the previous install.

    This has gotten better with this release but still not a 100%.

    Lot’s of my usual FF extentions have a Flock version or can be converted using Flock’d – Now if they can synch up with Ma.gnolia I may start using even more.

  6. Killeroid says:

    David Mead- Thanks for sticking with flock despite your problems

    Are you a mac user? Cos the problem of people losing their settings when they updated was only on the mac platform and it was fixed last two updates ago. Flock now backups your settings before upgrade and after upgrade restores them. If you still experience this problem, please file a bug at flock’s bugzilla. Have a nice day

  7. Jack says:

    How, that looks nice. I like the photo integration. But I’ve got Firefox just the way I like it! We’ll see, maybe if something goes wrong with FF I’ll try it out.

  8. David Mead says:

    Killeroid – Thanks for the feedback.

    I’m actually on a PC (WinXP-SP2) and I’m much happier with the latest build. Thanks for the concern.

  9. pixelgraphix says:

    Flock Screencast: Flock Beta1 im Live-Test…

    In dieser Woche ist der Browser Flock in der Beta1 erschienen. Bereits im Oktober berichtete ich in Flock Developer Preview vorgestellt etwas ausführlicher über die allererste Flock-Version. Damals schon vielversprechend aber buggy, hat sich Flock h…

  10. Joel says:

    I agree that Flock is supe-great advance. I love mozilla’s value for intuitive features and clean desing:) Great update.

  11. E L S U A ~ A KM Blog says:

    Flocking away with Cardinal…

  12. Flock - Firefox Reloaded?! at Gepflegte Langeweile says:

    [...] Yes, it has a strange name (the logo is also ugly) but I fell in love immediately with it. It’s based on Firefox and has some great features, like a nice feedreader and integration with del.icio.us, flickr and bloggin support. And it’s much faster then Firefox. Now, what do you want more? I can tell you: Support for extensions. Because it’s based on Firefox, it’s quite easy to use the same extensions, the developer just have to provide it. Pixelgraphix got a screencast where you can see Flock in action (the Beta is Mac-only) and some other dudes have also written some nice reviews. And I think you should check them out to find more about this great browser. Flock Filed under: Web   |   Tags: Flock. [...]

  13. beta @ amanzi » Flock public beta says:

    [...] What’s New With Flock? [...]

  14. Will Pate says:

    Brian, thanks for a the great review. I’m glad to hear you’re liking Flock. Anything we can do to make it better, just let us know!

    Cheers,

    Will Pate
    Community Ambassador, Flock

  15. alan says:

    hey i just added flock and it works great. Just wondering if there is a way to add specific people as friends or allow only certain people to see your account. thanks- alan